Imperialhal talks London, not-so-friendly NRG rivalry, and TSM's chances of ALGS success
The lights of the Copporbox arena await. A legendary esports arena that has played host to many dances of wits and nerves, ferocity and flamboyancy, and intuition and skill.
As the lights begin to warm up and the hearty chests of fans rattle in anticipation of jubilated screams and gasps, Apex Legends' best players from around the globe are harmoniously cracking their knuckles and stretching out their trophy-liting biceps.
The ALGS Split One Playoffs have arrived in London, and 60 teams will bear down on the arena that will transform into every corner of Worlds Edge and Storm Point respectively.
As the spectators' seats warp into the rocks of Storm Points' mountainous terrain, the stage flips into the Cascade waterfalls, and the controllers prepare to be pointed at each other and fire off R99 ammo, all eyes are diverted towards the players, and specifically Phillip "ImperialHal" Dosen.
Coming in as North America's number one seed and arguably the most well-known Apex Legends player on the planet, ImperialHal and TSM are poised to put on a show worthy of the Copperbox and get their hands on their first global title since the 2019 Apex Legends Preseason Invitational.
Ahead of the event, we sat down with ImperialHal, as TSM BootCamp in the Red Bull Gaming Sphere, and got down to business on ALGS's double-London visit, facing global opposition again, what meta's we can expect to see, and TSM's best chance to hoist the trophy yet...
First off, how has your travel been so far? How has it been arriving in London?
Travel has been not bad. I usually don't have problems with jet lag, but last night was the first time. I think I'm good now though, and I actually woke up at like 11:00 AM. I think my schedule's like fine.
And being in London, it seems like the driving here is way worse than in America. If I'm getting around in the car it takes forever. I feel that, compared to how like it looks from here to my hotel, it looks short, like it wouldn't take that long. But then when you have to drive, it feels like it's way longer.
We've only been here a day, but we went to have some food last night and that was nice.
The topic of having both splits in London has been pretty divisive. Are you looking forward to having the opportunity to play here, not once but possibly, probably, twice? Or would you prefer to have the second split somewhere else and galavant in a new city?
I don't know. I was kind of upset at first because the ALGS is a global thing. So I was expecting not the whole year to be in one place. But I don't know now, it's not a big deal to me. As long as I'm competing, that really matters to me. It's good that the covid restrictions and the PCs and stuff are all fine. They've improved all that so it's not that's not that big of a deal being in London three times.
If I don't get to see something the first time, I'll see it the second time or even the third time.
How important is it to have these sorts of like global LANs where the entire Apex Legends community can come together and compete?
I think it's really important to have LANs, because since Covid hit we didn't have LAN for - I dunno how long it was - maybe a year or something. I think being a gamer, the biggest or the best part is going to a LAN because you get to see all the people that you compete against from all over the world, and probably meet people that you haven't met in the past or that you met online.
So I think, I think having a LAN is like the most important thing to have for any game if there's any type of competitive scene.
You might have been told a little bit about the Copperbox and its very historic atmosphere. Are you looking forward to playing there and soaking in what it has to offer?
Yeah! We've seen pictures but I haven't been there yet, but seeing people put together the setups, it looks really nice.
I don't know much about it, but I've just seen pictures, so I'm looking forward to it. I know some people, beforehand, were kind of sceptical about it, but, I'm pretty confident that the ALGS or whoever is organizing it will make the venue and everything else look great.
It's known for having quite a rowdy atmosphere. London typically does across different esports. How do you think Apex Legends LANs compare to those of like other esports, with how the crowds react to having so many teams playing at once?
So this is my first competitive game. I've been competitive in other games such as Fortnite and stuff like that, but I've never been to a LAN other than in Apex.
I guess the other game where I went to a LAN was H1Z1, but there was like practically no crowd.
I've obviously watched CS:GO and stuff like that though, so I guess it's pretty similar. The fans are pretty passionate about it in the crowd and stuff like that.
When we were in Raleigh for Champs last year I could like still hear the crowd through the headset, so it's pretty similar. The crowd is always chanting. It's not obviously as big as other games but still great.
I know you've been bootcamping at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere, so how have your preparations been so far?
I actually love the place here at the Red Bull gaming sphere. We had the map up on the wall so we were able to look around the map which helped with talking about strats. So that was pretty nice to have. We haven't scrimmed yet but we're probably going to stream and everything too. So I think we're going to have a good BootCamp for sure.
Obviously, you're coming in as the number-one seed in America. How have your preparations been throughout the current season so far?
It's been great. Like ever since we picked up Raven, our coach, in the beginning of Pro League, our preparation has been phenomenal, honestly. I have no complaints. I think we would do way worse if Raven wasn't around, to be honest.
But yeah, we were talking about certain stuff last night, on certain zones or like what to do in certain situations. So I'm feeling pretty confident. We have multiple options, and I feel like we've never had that before, so that's good.
You are one of the teams to take down, given that TSM has one of the biggest Apex Legends followings out of any organisation in the world. Who do you see as maybe your biggest rivals or any specific underdogs going into the event?
So to me as a competitor, our biggest rival rivalry is either NRG or Dark Zero because, well, Dark Zero is contesting that 'who's the best team in the world?' or whatever, because they won the last LAN.
So I would love for them to not even make finals. Same with NRG. Me and "sweetdreams" - just that team in general - we always just have this friendly rivalry between us. I guess you can call it friendly anyway. I know we don't really run into either of them but those two definitely.
It would be more Dark Zero at the moment because they've won the last two events. So I think our rivalry is more on Dark Zero because they're getting to that number one type of spot.
What can we expect to see from the meta this week? Maybe for those that aren't particularly clued up within the APEX Legends esports scene, what type of legends can we expect to see in rotation?
You're going to see a lot of Seer, Bangalore, and Valkyrie. I know a lot of the Asian teams, they like to play Seer, Bangalore, and Val. There's gonna be a little bit of Horizon. We're gonna be playing Horizon. There are going to be a bunch of Wattson teams, obviously. It's typically going to be either Seer, Bang, and Val, or it's going to be like Val, Watson, and then either crypto or Seer.
There are going to be a lot more aggressive compositions too, compared to more passive ones with Wattson. So I think it's going to be enjoyable to watch. I know people are used to watching scrims but people are a lot more aggressive on there.
But I think people are going to play a lot more passively in the tournament because, you know, there's a lot more on the line.
Do you expect, do you expect to see any red herrings, anybody throwing in Bloodhound or Gibby?
I know Pulvarex, which is one of the teams in APAC North teams, they play Gibby but only on match point. I haven't seen any other Gibby's played, other than that team. And in terms of Bloodhound, usually, Aurora, who is the number one seed in EU, usually plays Bloodhound sometimes.
I think Luminosity is going to gonna play Bloodhound too, because they usually play Bloodhound, Bangalore, and Valkyrie. But that's only two teams who will play Bloodhound.
Do you consider Apex Legends to be a tier-one esport? If you do, why? If not, what needs to happen for it to be considered one?
Love that question. I don't know if I would classify it as a tier-one esport right now. I guess compared to the other battle royales. Yes. Yes, I would. Absolutely. I think Apex as a battle royale esport is the best. Hands down. It's not even close to any other. I've played every other battle royale out there, basically. I've played Fortnite, I've played PUBG, I've played H1Z1, but I just think it has the perfect balance of being competitive, but also being able to be watched. It's easy to follow, compared to like Fortnite.
In Fortnite, you're gonna just have 50 stories of walls, you just don't know what's going on. It's hard to watch, even though it's just popular to play.
The biggest thing is, I think EA or Respawn need to work better with the organizations, as quite a lot of orgs have been leaving recently. Liquid has left, C9, G2 has also left recently the scene, so I think as a company EA or Respawn, needs to be more cooperative.
I know the Pro League that we recently played, I think it was on $20K for first, but that was for six or seven weeks of play. It's five grand each, maybe less for like seven weeks of play, which is kind of nothing. For that amount of time to play, they can improve on that and they can improve the relationship with the organizations.
I'm kind of an outlier when it comes to that aspect of life because I stream. So I don't really rely on the tournaments but for most of the people that compete it's the only form of income. Playing for seven weeks and the highest you could possibly get is like five grand... it should be more.
How do you balance that out? Maybe skins in-game with some sort of revenue deal per sale with the orgs?
Yeah. We've had banners, but yeah, they're in the works, right?
It's been on hold since negotiations that are going through the company and the orgs, and the players, went all over the place. They are trying to do that, but it just takes it forever.
So, What are your ambitions from this ALGS Split? What do you want to achieve in this and what are your realistic expectations?
I think our expectations would be the top two. If I don't get second place, at least, then I feel like we didn't do what I expected to be.
I always have that expectation to get at least second place. But I think this time around we always expect higher of ourselves. There's always doubt, but this time around I feel like if we don't get at least second place and just something went wrong, like really bad.
Does that high expectation come off the back of Apex possibly being in the best competitive spot it's ever been in?
I think in terms of the game, since how diverse the champion pools became, and since the covid restrictions are a lot better - the only issue is visas that are stopping players from competing - I think this upcoming tournament is going to be probably the most competitive one ever. As I said, how diverse the champion pool has become now means that people can pick whatever they want to, really, compared to the past where there were set characters that you have to play.
TSM kick off their conquest for ALGS supremacy in the first wave of Group Stage matches on Thursday, February 2, at 5 pm BST, where they will face the likes of 100 Thieves and Aurora Gaming.